Vivianne Miedema is at the top of her game.
she was named BBC Female Footballer of the Year 2021is fighting for the Women’s Super League title with Arsenal and is set to lead the Netherlands’ defense of their European crown this summer.
But there were times when things got tough for the striker.
It was 2015, just after the World Cup in Canada. Miedema was just 18 years old and the Netherlands’ journey had ended with a 2-1 loss to Japan in the round of 16.
“It was the hardest moment of my career,” he tells MOTDx.
“I was very close to retiring. When I got home, I said I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t deal with the pressure, I didn’t like football and I told my mother ‘I’m done’.” I was going to play for fun in Holland.”
The making of a legend
By then, Miedema was playing in Germany with Bayern Munich. He had moved from SC Heerenveen in his homeland a year earlier and, despite winning the league title in his debut season, he admits he was out of his comfort zone.
“Bayern felt like the right step after Heerenveen,” says Miedema, now 25. “I didn’t speak English or German at the time, so it was difficult, but winning the title was great.”
After nearly giving up, a change in perspective set her on a new path.
“My mindset changed,” she says. “I felt much freer, I felt much better about myself and I didn’t listen to the pressure of the outside world.”
Miedema joined Arsenal in 2017, the year they became European champions with the Netherlands.
Legendary status at the club, and in women’s football in general, is already assured. She helped Arsenal win the WSL in 2019, she is the league’s all-time top scorer and this season she became the first player in the competition’s history to record 100 goal participations.
“There weren’t many female role models, so I followed the men”
From a young age, Miedema has thrived on adversity and proven people wrong.
He grew up playing against boys in the small town of Hoogeveen before joining HZVV and moving on to VV from Weide and then Heerenveen at the age of 14.
“I started playing soccer because I wanted to be part of a team with my friends, now I’m still the same,” he says.
“I was part of a very small family, it has always been my parents, grandparents, my brother Lars and myself. Being able to share football with him has been very special. We lived in an apartment with a football pitch in front of it.
“It was never weird for me to be the only girl on the team. When I walked onto the pitch the opposition were like ‘oh this is going to be easy because they have a girl.’ I loved that because it always provoked me. I’d like to score a hat- trick, what I used to do.”
The growth of women’s football and Miedema’s role in it means that young girls have role models they want to emulate. Not so for Miedema, as she grew up in a male-dominated soccer scene.
“There weren’t many female role models, so I just played along with the men,” she says.
“I supported Feyenoord growing up, so there was Robin van Persie, Dirk Kuyt, Thomas Buffel. Then there was Raúl at Real Madrid, these types of players.
“I was a big fan of tennis. Serena Williams was a great example to get the best out of my career.
“It’s amazing to be seen as a role model and to have young girls say ‘I want to be like Miedema’ or ‘I want to be like Fran Kirby.’ It’s great to have that platform, to show the opportunities out there.”
Despite being so prolific in front of goal, scoring 83 league goals in 74 games for Heerenveen, 52 in 78 with Bayern and 72 in 85 with Arsenal, Miedema sees herself in a much larger role. deep in the field.
“I’ve never seen myself as a number nine or a finisher. My position was always number 10 when I was younger, I wanted to prepare people. I know I can score goals, but I wouldn’t say it’s the main part.” of my game.”
‘I don’t like being the center of attention’
With Miedema out of contract at Arsenal in the summer, his future has been the subject of much speculation.
It has been strongly linked with European champions Barcelona and previously told a Dutch newspaper who wants to win the Champions League.
“England was one of those countries that I thought was really exciting,” she says. “I spoke to a couple of English clubs [when I left Bayern]but Arsenal gave me the best feeling and I liked the idea of being at a club that wanted to get back to the top and win trophies again.
“I felt the league would grow. I have been very happy to be part of this team and part of the club and I have liked being in the league. England is the strongest league there is and I think it will only develop further.” after the European Championship (in England this summer). It’s exciting to see where it’s going to go.”
Along with the records and the applause, Miedema says he has developed off the pitch this season.
“This is the first season where I feel like I’ve not only grown as a player, but as a teammate and as a person,” she says. “Once you’re happy off the pitch, you can perform on it.
“I find myself quite cold sometimes, I don’t like being the center of attention. I still struggle sometimes now with the pressure that comes with football.”
“I would love to be able to leave a legacy behind of saying, ‘No matter what you do, just be yourself and accept who you are.
“I’m 25 years old. I still have a few years left.”